Jenny Barringer, the American record-holder in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, is parting ways with University of Colorado coach Mark Wetmore for Juli Benson, Air Force’s head cross country and assistant track coach, a spokesman for the Air Force Academy confirmed Thursday night.

Benson competed in the 1500 meters during the 1996 Olympic Games and has been with the Falcons since last year. The coming cross-country season will be her first year as head coach.

Barringer’s decision to leave Wetmore — first reported by Race Results Weekly on Thursday night — comes nearly two weeks after she signed a multi-year professional contract with New Balance, a Boston-based shoe company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but she was widely considered one of the most sought-after collegiate distance runners after her dominant career running for the Buffaloes.

Efforts to contact Benson and Barringer were not immediately successful.

Barringer owns six collegiate records, including three indoors — the mile, 3,000 and 5,000 — and three more outdoors — the 1,500, 5,000 and steeplechase. She graduated in December, having competed for the United States as part of the inaugural women’s steeplechase in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Barringer’s signing with New Balance signaled a symbolic shift in goals for the company, from one aimed at marketing to casual runners to one dedicated to reaching No. 1 in the world.

“We haven’t done anything like this with an athlete with this profile in a long time,” said Tom Carleo, general manager of New Balance.

Barringer said in a recent telephone interview that she believed she could be successful with any company, but chose New Balance for their message, culture and efforts to help cultivate youth girls’ running programs. She called New Balance “a beautiful fit.”

“I find I’m in a place where there’s younger girls who are excited about what I can do,” she said. “But there are also older women seeing me and saying, ‘Look at what we’ve done.’ I’m being looked at from both ends. It’s an exciting place to be, but it holds a lot of responsibility.”

Barringer last said she planned to live and train after college in Boulder, where her fiancee also lives and works.

An abridged version of this article appeared in the Feb. 5, 2010, sports section of The Denver Post. The full version of this story appeared on The Post’s Web site.